Summary: There is an old English Idiom: the elephant in the room. It refers to an obvious truth that everyone ignores. I think all of us have experienced the elephant in the room phenomenon in different ways.
Now let me zoom out. Over the years, I think some of the abuses of alcohol became more pronounced and a prohibition movement started to speak out against some of the evil effects of alcohol. And rightly so! But what does the Bible really say about drinking and drunkenness?
Here are a few guiding principles.
#1 Drunkenness is a sin
Scripture is black and white on the issue of drunkenness. It is wrong in and of itself. And it leads to a litany of other sins. Let me say it like it is: nothing good comes from drunkenness. Nothing!
A few weeks ago, Parker and I were out walking our dog, Mickey, late at night. As we turned the corner, I noticed a guy peeing on the sidewalk who was obviously drunk. I found it rather ironic that our dog was also peeing on the sidewalk! I was tempted to turn around and avoid the situation because of Parker. But I thought it’d be a good lesson: I told Parker that when you get drunk you do things and say things that are stupid!
The Bible is explicit in Ephesians 5:18:
Do not be drunk with wine.
#2 Drinking is not a sin
Don’t get me wrong. I think drinking, in and of itself, can be sinful if it’s done for the wrong reasons. Some of those reasons are drinking to forget, drinking to drown your sorrows, drinking to fit in, and drinking to escape emotionally. Alcohol is the wrong way to deal with all of the above!
But that doesn’t change the fact that Scripture does not prohibit drinking. In fact, Jesus turned water into wine. And Paul could have forbidden drinking altogether when he was establishing qualification for elders. But, instead, he forbade drunkenness in Titus 1:7.
I think wine is a lot like sex. It is a gift from God. But like all of His gifts, it can be used, misused, or abused. And nothing is more dangerous than the abuse of sex and alcohol. But that doesn’t negate the fact that they are gifts from God. We tend to overlook verses like Psalm 104:14-15.
He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate--bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.
#3 Don’t be a stumbling block to others
One of the key guiding principles in Romans 14 is verse 13:
Make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.
We tend to make decisions based on how they affect us, but Paul adds another dimension to the decision-making process. We have to consider how our actions affect others.
I learned this lesson as an eight year-old kid. I remember my parents going out to dinner with new friends who were new believers. My parents ordered a glass of wine only to discover their new friend was an alcoholic. It was an innocent mistake. But we have to consider how our actions might help or hinder others in their spiritual development.
In the words of Paul in verses 19-21:
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.